Longer polling fair to large constituencies

KUCHING: The Election Commission (EC) should consider for a longer polling period in constituencies with large number of voters.

Political analyst Dick Lembang Dugun said the period of voting must take into consideration the total number of registered voters for each constituency. This is in the interest of fairness for constituencies which have many voters compared to those with less.

“For example, during the 11th Sarawak state election, Batu Lintang constituency which has 28,105 registered voters compared to Engkilili constituency with only 10,682 were given the same period of voting. This is clearly not fair,” he said when commenting on proposals from Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) Sarawak for longer voting and campaigning period during the upcoming state election.

He said in order to implement the suggestions, the EC must ensure that they were doable and allowed within the EC’s rules and regulations.

On Bersih Sarawak’s suggestion for the campaign period to be extended to 21 days, Dick agreed that it was good, but fair play must be provided to all political parties contesting in the election.

He noted that all parties must have equal access to the mass media and physical campaigning must have strict enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He said specific SOPs for the election must be created by the EC with advice of the Ministry of Health (MoH), adding that the permitted and prohibited activities must be clearly highlighted.

“Other than that, vaccinations must be carried out faster to make sure that herd immunity can be achieved at the end of August for Sarawak.

“The federal and state governments must put priority on Sarawak with regard to the vaccination programme – the vaccinations are crucial if Sarawak holds its election,” he said.

He added that monitoring of campaigning and election activities by the authorities such as the police or an independent body must also be permitted.

“Hopefully, with all these in place, we can minimise or prevent the spread of Covid-19 during the election,” he said.

Dick said that if there was no extension for the Emergency or a new proclamation of Emergency specifically for Sarawak, the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) will automatically dissolve upon the lifting of Emergency on August 1 and the election must be held within 60 days.